Delta Program Links In Mentors With Mentees

Have you ever sat next to a know-it-all on a long flight from somewhere to someplace? How’d that work for ya? Well, Delta and LinkedIn are making a virtue of the experience.

“We’re excited to invite you to be among the first people to take part in Delta Innovation Class. It’s a unique new program where leaders and professionals in various fields can share knowledge and skills with up-and-coming innovators and doers like yourself,” reads a LinkedIn “InMail” delivered to an undetermined-at-press-time number of Young Turks (such as us) yesterday. “All while on board one of our flights.”

“What if we could turn a three-hour flight into a mentoring program at 35,000 feet,” the folks at Delta purportedly asked themselves, after having realized that “our planes fill up with some of the smartest people in the world.” But “what they don’t have is a lot of time.”

The first pairing was between Pebble Technologies CEO and founder Eric Migicovsky and interaction designer James Patten. It took place last Friday on a flight from Salt Lake City to Vancouver, where both were participating in the Delta-sponsored TED conference. A 2:46 YouTube video report of their session can be viewed here.

“Innovation Class is our small contribution to enable collaboration by bringing together brilliant minds, and there is no better place to launch this program than at TED — an organization that was born to spread ideas and fuel innovation,” said Mauricio Parise, Delta's director of worldwide marketing communications in the news release.

“As a company all about connections, it seems only natural to do something with this,” said Sean McLaughlin, creative director of Wieden+Kennedy, which came up with the idea, according to PolicyMic’s Vivian Giang. “Could we take these people at the top of their industry and find a way to pair them up with someone just trying to break into that field? That seemed too good to pass up.”

Next up is a chance to sit next to chef Sean Brock when he travels from Charleston, S.C., to New York’s JFK on May 5 to attend the James Beard Foundation Awards. (FYI: You’d probably get more face time if you shared a cab ride on the BQE from the airport to the city.)

“This is your chance to learn what makes one of the most progressive thinkers in food so special,” reads the website copy about the upcoming opportunity to be the chosen one. And all you’ve got to do to apply is to expressly allow them to access “some” of your LinkedIn information, such as Your Profile Overview, Your Full Profile, Your Email Address, Your Connections, Your Contact Info, Network Updates. Group Discussions and Invitations and Messages. (As if they didn’t already have it, right?)

“The airline's initiative seems similar to Amtrak's #AmtrakResidency which enables writers to win a free luxurious long-distance train ride to write,” observes PolicyMic’s Giang.

Entrepreneur’s Nina Zipkin is reminded of a Turkish Airlines in-flight pitch competition last year called “Invest on Board,” as well as British Airways’ “UnGrounded” program, where it “put 100 leaders from companies like Google and Andreessen Horowitz in the air to have them discuss how to solve big issues facing the world.”

Personally, we’ve been enamored of the in-air shenanigans of Air New Zealand. Over the years, its PR agency — PadillaCRT nee CRT/Tanaka — has forwarded news of “its creative and avant-garde marketing techniques” such as “in-flight safety briefings starring furry-footed Hobbits and flight crew clad in nothing but body paint, to … playing matchmaker for a few singles looking for love.”

Then there was the Betty White in-flight safety video released last October. “Even if you think White’s shtick is worn out (and we don’t), you have to admire a brand that carves out such a unique niche for itself and sticks with it,” wrote PRNewser’s Patrick Coffee.

The folks at Delta and LinkedIn allow you to suggest a mentor of your own predilections for its Innovation Class program. Betty White would be a gas, as they say, don’t you think?

As for us, we’d really rather prefer to use the downtime burrowing into a classic such as Lao-tzu's Tao Te Ching rather than listen to any jabber, brilliant as it may be. “The Master stays behind,” reads Stephen Mitchell’s translation. “That is why she is ahead.”

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